these manga heroes who get lost in virtual worlds

Leaving the real world for a fantasy world is a theme that has fascinated manga for decades, to the point of becoming a genre: isekai. Many works embrace this theme, whether Japanese or not. And, in recent years, virtual worlds from video games have taken precedence over others.

In the early 2010s, just one title was enough to shake up the entire music industry. manga : Sword Art Online (where ODS for close friends). Originally published as a light novel (series of short novels with a refined style), the work was published then adapted into animethen into the manga, before you know it a stunning worldwide success. However, at first glance, there was nothing original about this series. Indeed, it belongs to isekai, a genre of storytelling very popular in light novels and manga in Japan (Mar, Re: ZeroWhere french manga the land of dreams). The fantasy subgenre tells the story of an ordinary character transported to a parallel world, often a heroic fantasy world.

Sword Art Online has one feature: the world in which its heroes are trapped is not a parallel universe, but a life-sized video game, an MMORPG in which all players are stuck until they complete it. It’s not the first isekai to be placed in a game, but Sword Art Online is the most popular title of its kind and has brought many inspirations.

Isekai in video games, a gamer’s fantasy

Isekai is a very popular genre in Japanese fantasy. Modifying its form to fit it into a video game is a way to recreate it, modernize it, even make it more tangible. What game fan has never dreamed of living in the world of their favorite game? Between virtual reality and ever-increasing technological advances in sensory sensors, this could probably happen in a few decades. At least that’s more likely to happen than being transported to a parallel world. That is why it excites the imagination of authors as well as readers much more.

Sword Art Online has reinvented the isekai genre.©Crunchyroll

Whether Japanese or not, manga whose heroes evolve into a video game are very popular. New titles come out every year and the genre pushes boundaries. In France, the second largest consumer manga in the world, the genre is also passionate. Illegal players (Ki-Oon), written and drawn by Shonen, is one of the top five best-selling French manga in the world – and has even been published in Japan. Again, the story follows the adventures of a player stuck in an ultra-realistic MMORPG.

French web series Dizzyin which the heroes are MMORPG players, also fell into the manga with Noob Reroll. Here, virtual reality allows players to be completely transported into the world ofhorizonsfictional game of the series, and to keep all the sensations.

Illegal players it is Sword Art Online à la française that breaks all records.©Ki-Oon

Manga is not the only medium that is fascinated by this possibility. We can cite the novel in particular Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, adapted into the cinema by Steven Spielberg, which explores the possibilities and limits of living in a video game.

A genre as loved as it is hated

The latest title of its kind, Bofuri: I didn’t come to suffer so I put everything in defensewhich the first volume was published on 1er September last published by Mana Books. With this release, it seems clear that video game isekai has become a genre of its own with its own codes, archetypes, and clichés. That’s why he’s so often received so wildly by readers who either love him or hate him. Fan service is important in these stories, as these are ordinary characters who get super powers and do whatever they want.

Bofurithe last of its kind.©Crunchyroll

We can also see a form of laziness in it: it’s a trendy topic and the best way to create a fantasy universe without bothering with the lore of said universe. No need to worry about realism. Indeed, the characters that populate it are not enriched with as much detail as in classic fantasy universes, because they come from the real world and speak like everyone else. Except that the gamer’s vocabulary is widely used.

A sometimes negative view of video games

In isekai, the vision of the video game is sometimes narrow. The characters in these works are often prisoners of the game and, when the avatar dies, they also die in reality. This symbolizes the supposed closure of the public in virtual worlds and the harmful aspect of video games to players. They also give a very negative image of the latter, portrayed as perverted, lost, unable to live a normal life and who will indulge in all possible vices in the virtual world.

Fortunately, this is not the case for all isekai, but these details contribute to the proliferation of the most obnoxious clichés. However, many series take the opposite view and bend genre codes for comedic or dramatic purposes. This is enough to immortalize her and allow her to expand her horizons.

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